Cedar Rapids, Iowa News, Sports, and Weather
CEDAR FALLS He smiled when asked what he expects Saturday night. One of those sly smiles.
It was a rather silly reporter's question to begin with since Deon Mitchell has no idea who his Northern Iowa Panthers will play in the semifinals of the CollegeInsider.com Tournament. Hard to know what to expect when you don't know your opponent.
So the quick-witted Mitchell went for the humourous reply, and it worked. Appropriate considering virtually everything worked for his team on this night.
"I expect another 90 points," the UNI guard said.
Enough said. It was a season-high offensive ouput for Northern Iowa in an entertaining 90-77 CIT quarterfinal win over Bradley Tuesday night at the McLeod Center. The Panthers (21-14) absolutely lit it up to the tune of 63-percent shooting in a 50-point second half and 59-percent shooting overall.
All five Panthers starters scored in double figures, led by Anthony James' 21 points. Throw in a squeaky clean floor game (four turnovers), and this was an unbeatable performance.
UNI beat Missouri Valley Conference rival Bradley for the third time this season.
"We were just trying to push it," said Mitchell, who finished with 10 points and eight assists. "We had some success with the transition in the first half, so we had to stick with it. Try to wear them out."
Which they did. Led by all-conference guard Walt Lemon Jr., Bradley (18-17) led most of the first half and was tied at halftime, 40-40.
But UNI went to another level in the second half, and the Braves couldn't keep up. There was Seth Tuttle (19 points) and Jake Koch (14) with the interior damage, and James and others outside.
The senior guard nailed five treys, including a couple of the stepback variety. When he's doing that and seldom-used Marvin Singleton is splashing his third and fourth 3-pointers of the season, you know your team is smoking hot.
Northern Iowa was 12 of 24 from distance. Lemon Jr. had 19 points but just two in the second half, which was another important factor.
"The second half, we made a lot of shots," said UNI Coach Ben Jacobson. "Guys moved well and screened well and had some good shots. But we made a lot of shots ... It was a case of we had a 20 minutes where what we tried to run (offensively) seemed to work. When it didn't work, somebody made a shot anyway. Even when they defended us well, somebody made a shot."
It's either Oral Roberts (20-14) or Weber State (28-6) in the CIT semifinals Saturday night at 7 at the McLeod Center. Those two play their quarterfinal Wednesday night.
Northern Iowa was highly disappointed at being relegated to this second-tier tournament, but it's in it and figures it might as well try to win it.
"We're not where we want to be," Mitchell said. "But we want to keep playing. End it on a good note."
A North Dakota native, Jacobson was asked after the game about rumors that he could be a candidate for the open head coaching job at Minnesota. There also is some speculation he might be a fit at Northwestern as well.
"That's the nature of college athletics," he said. "Whether it's me or anybody else, you're either doing well enough that your name is going to get mentioned, whether you want it to or not. Or you're not doing well enough, and there's a good chance you're going to get fired. There's really no middle ground for most people.
"That's where I'm really fortunate. I don't like to call it middle ground because we're striving to win championships, and I don't consider that middle ground. When I say middle ground, I'm saying being happy at the job you're in and having guys you like being around. So I'm not right now at either end."
Jacobson signed a 10-year contract at UNI in March 2010 that paid him $500,000 this season.
"I really like what I'm doing," Jacobson said. "I like being here."